I Was a Weird Kid

“The best do the basics better” — Eric Frohardt

It was third grade when a teacher at a new school figured out that I might need glasses. On the way home from getting my first pair of glasses I read a billboard out loud from the back of the car. My two younger brothers (who couldn’t read yet) got very excited. We got ice-cream, they liked me, but the glasses where just another reason I was different.

Up to that point I had mostly kept to myself, in retrospect probably because I couldn’t see out past the length of my elbow. Now I could connect with the world, but ironically still socially isolated. Now I knew.

Awkward, geeky, lonely, I got lost in books and building plastic models. Then I joined a cadet corps, learned to march and shoot, earned my pilot’s license, forged my mother’s signature on a permission form and took her car for a weekend of parachuting. I spent a summer back-packing in Europe, went to school and learned to program. I built a meaningful career building things that mattered, raised a family, grew up, and fell in love again. It got better and kept getting better.

Always learning, always sharing

I’ve learned a lot over the last 35 years of being an adult, and I like sharing what I know. It’s why I’ve been a business coach the last nine years. It’s been amazing.  It’s a really cool virtuous circle. I learn from every client and apply many of those learnings to my life, then often share them with the next client.

And I’ve wanted to write a book since I was that geeky kid, but not just any book that anyone else could write. So when I heard “the best do the basics better“, it hit me: that’s the book! The speaker was talking about physical training and firearms instruction, but the same principle applies to many different things. You know, like being able to see the blackboard…that’s a basic requirement for learning. Or being able to see facial expressions and body language when making friends.

What are the “basics” of a successful and meaningful life? What are the simple things outstanding people do well in leadership? I started writing topics headings, and by the time I finished I had three books worth. And that was just from a work/business/entrepreneur perspective.

So here’s my ask:

What are the process, tools, tricks, routines, or habits do you rely on to make your life meaningful? Reduce friction in the daily grind? Be more effective? Do better? What works for you at the personal, leadership, or company level? What are the simple things that you’ve tried that didn’t work?

Let me know either in the comments, or by email, or however you like. I look hearing from you all…and thank-you.

Book Review: the Coaching Habit

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More Change the Way You Lead ForeverThe Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love the model, started using it with clients before I even finished reading it. Replaces Coaching for Performance as my first-book-to-recommend-about-coaching on the bookshelf. Easy to read with a lot of back-up supporting material in video and references format. Especially appreciate the book list at the end.

[…and as an aside: I’ll never read 100 books a year, like some business experts do. I can’t waste my time even skimming that many books a year, so I always appreciate when others do and make recommendations. Thanks Michael!]

View all my reviews

Ask For, Get, and Use Feedback

Good tips here about how to get feedback from employees – interestingly they’re all action we need to take, not changes they need to make. Not only will it make you a better leader, but you will also:

  • be able to give feedback to them that is more likely to be heard and acted on (having set the example)
  • have another opportunity to share your values, expectations, and vision (and they get to make the “right” decisions without having to check with you constantly)
  • you get to check that your team is hearing what you think you’re saying (and make the appropriate adjustments)
  • you hear about real issues sooner
  • your being open to feedback (which feels vulnerable) raises the level of trust

Getting Feedback from Your Employees

…and if you’re still not convinced you need to get feedback:

The Benefit of Speaking Up

…and if you think staying quiet has no cost:

The Cost of Not Saying Anything

Embrace the Suck, Find the Gold

In my region of the world, and in my adopted city, things aren’t good for many companies. It’s been a struggle for a few years.
I like to ask “What’s the opportunity in this grind?” But Brandon Webb say it better: “Embrace the Suck“, and find the gold in the muck.

Which Is More Important – Intelligence or Critical Thinking?

Recent article suggests that raw IQ may not be as important to desirable, real-world outcomes as critical thinking skills, and further goes on to imply that you can learn, practice, and improve those skills.

Also known as “why smart people make stupid decisions”.

What are your best critical thinking skills?

Execution Lessons from a High School Class

I like building stuff, and I used to be a Scout leader, so I found this article on building remote controlled cars to teach science interesting. Then I noticed there were a couple of project management guidelines buried in there too:

  • have sub-goals – quick payoff for effort that is near-term and achievable
  • tangible objects yield informed decisions
  • decide constraints (interfaces) before building (execution) begins



Questions to Jump Start Your Creativity

The Sevens, the big rugby cum costume party in Welington, is not all about rugby but just about having fun and going crazy.
Jumping for Creativity

Habits are great when then support getting routine chores that don’t require much thought done, but when they start to feel like a jail for your spirit, it’s time to challenge yourself. My friend and social media wizard Ernest has been doing just that for himself that last few years. Well, actually, he does it all the time.

Here are his thoughts provocative:

Questions to jump start your creativity

100 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

Inc.com has put together a list of 100 Podcasts That Will Make You Wiser. I picked up a couple of new ones (You Are Not So Smart, TEDTalks Business, Office Hours). Great way to educate while walking the dogs….

And I’m not sure they’ll make you wiser, but maybe smarter 🙂

Learn From the Best

Surrounding yourself with the best people you can find, people who will challenge you and make you better, has always been a fast way to get to where you want. It will make you happier, more productive, and more successful in the long run. Doing the same with other entrepreneurs also works.

Learn From the Best from Inc.

Simple Criteria for Choosing a Mentor

Anybody who wants a more successful career should find an experienced and trusted adviser or three. Personally I have my own little board of directors, whom I call my “Brain Trust.” And today I’m having lunch with a former boss who is now semi-retired but still a valuable network resource.

What should you be looking for in a mentor? How do you find an experienced and trusted advisor to help you have a more successful career?

First, be clear about your own intentions and expectations. What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? Are you working on a particular behaviour or skill? Are you wanting to improve your leadership skills, get promoted, or land that big contract?

A mentor is more experienced and knowledgeable than you. A mentor is a successful model of the career you’re envisioning, but distant enough from your own job, chain-of-command, or team / department / company that they can give you an objective perspective of your situation.

Their own self-interest does not play into any advice or feedback they give you. Nor will you hold back sharing important details with him or her for fear of it affecting your career, deal, or company.

A mentor is willing to spend time with you, coach you, and introduce you into his or her network. A mentor genuinely cares about you. They may even become a friend, but not necessarily.

You should respect your mentor, and work at establishing and maintaining the relationship. You’re getting more out of it than they are. You should be willing to invest the time and effort required. Treat it like the professional commitment that it is.

Your mentor will be honest (and kind) with you, push you out of your comfort zone, and ask you the questions that might make you squirm. A mentor will help you grow. If you’re not going to take their advice, then don’t waste their time.

In the end it’s your decisions about what actions to take or not. That never changes. Just consider that what got you to where you are might not get you to where you want to go next. Commit to making the changes needed to reach your goals.

Try This

If you don’t already have one, make a list of three potential mentors including what you would hope to learn from them. They don’t necessarily need to be in your network already. How will you approach them?